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If You're Not Using Speedgrader, You're Missing Out!

Community Contributor
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      Before the pandemic took over, I was fortunate to speak at a conference where I discussed providing feedback to students through technology. In sum, I spoke about how technology can be a win/win for both teacher and student. Students require feedback to learn and teachers are required to provide feedback to students. It is obvious, but is worth stating, that feedback is only effective if it is read and understood by the students. I have been using technology to provide feedback for over ten years and already understood the benefits of not worrying about losing a hard copy of a paper or having a student who could not understand my handwriting. What was even more helpful for me and for my students, however, was when my institution adopted Canvas and I adopted SpeedGrader

      I had heard that Speedgrader was a game-changer so I went in with high expectations and I was not disappointed. In fact, the function exceeded all of my hopes. There are tons of videos by people much more proficient in using Speedgrader than I am, but that is precisely why I want to share this post. I was not proficient in its use and I was slightly intimidated at the thought of using it, yet my experience was a positive one.

      Allow me to explain. All of my students' submissions were waiting for me, in order, in Speedgrader. A simple click brought up my rubric. I had created my own rubric to use for my specific assignment. It was there for me as I read through the paper. As I began my first paper, with the rubric sitting beside the document I was grading, I saw that there were various opportunities to comment on the paper itself. These comments had nothing to do with the rubric so in addition to providing a detailed rubric with comments, I was able to make specific comments throughout the paper itself. I was awestruck. The commenting was easy. It required no training, just a little trial and error that is natural when I use any new electronic tool.There is a way to highlight (and in a variety of interchangeable colors), there is a way to drop a point to suggest something is missing, there is a way to cross out, the way I would do by hand with a red pen and there is a way to box out an entire section if there is something I need to state about a large portion of the work. Every comment is saved directly onto the document and is available when I am ready to return the marked-up version to the student.The students receive these marked-up papers through Canvas once the grading is complete.

      As for the additional rubric that was sitting in a split screen right next to the document, it was delightful to use. I used my rubric to provide additional, more general comments to students. I was able to allocate points to each section of the rubric and Speedgrader automatically added everything up for me. One of the best parts was that within the rubric, I had the option to save my comments so that I could reuse them for future student comments on the same assignment. This is incredibly useful.

      The last benefit that is worth noting is that Speedgrader keeps track of all of your assignments and the grades allocated to each student. Thus, at any time, a teacher can enter the gradebook through Canvas and see each student's overall grades. They are calculated and at the end of the semester, the points are waiting for me to convert into a letter grade.

      Any reason you are letting stop you from using Speedgrader needs to be dropped and you need to give it a try. I think you will be pleasantly surprised by its user-friendly feel and I think your feedback will not only remain as strong as before, but it may even get better. If you try it, please let me know your thoughts on its use. Happy grading and stay safe!

Community Team
Community Team

 @michellez ‌, thank you for sharing this wonderful post! I'm hoping that it gets plenty of visibility, so I'm taking this opportunity to point out one of my favorite and arguably lesser-known Speedgrader features: being able to display students' submissions by submission status so that submissions float to the top of the list and students who have not yet submitted move to the bottom. How do I sort the student list in SpeedGrader?‌ provides details.

Community Contributor

Great point stefaniesanders‌ - thanks so much for the support!

Community Contributor

Thanks for addressing SpeedGrader!

This tool really is a time-saver and a huge step forward for teacher efficiency and comfort. Oftentimes, teachers who don't use it have experienced early "speedbumps" instead of timesaving. 

Here are some points to keep in mind about maximizing the usefulness of SpeedGrader:

  • Teachers need a chance to safely experiment with the tool and get comfortable with the interface, a few favorite markup tools, and the functions that display web urls and discussions, etc. 
    • Once teachers trust and have confidence in the tool, they'll never work without it. 
  • Students need clear instructions on where to get their assignment feedback and what they are expected to do with it--otherwise it is a colossal waste of time to leave feedback. The same with how to use rubrics to direct their efforts on homework. 
  • The rubrics tool is tricky, but super useful. 
    • Do yourself a favor--write and proofread your rubric fully in a WordDoc so you can copy and paste into the tool. (Struggling to compose and edit in the rubric tool with "cure" you of ever wanting to use it again!)
    • Write your rubrics with high-to-low ratings, regardless of your personal preference.  This is one area where fighting the built-in tool will backfire.  
    • Until Canvas makes the discussion rubrics viewable in a consistent way (like assignment rubrics) consider taking a screenshot of your finished rubric and paste it at the bottom of the discussion prompt, in the "box" RCE, so students get used to seeing it. 
    • Write a single, versatile rubric for all of your discussions and again with all of your weekly assignments. Save time.  A complete course can be addressed with 3-4 well-designed rubrics.
  • * Some teacher's will use SpeedGrader, yet still use it the hard way!  A quick demo of navigation arrows will help prevent time-wasting and struggling. 
  • Use a large monitor or full screen desktop computer.  Cute little laptops may seem more portable, but they reduce arrows and navigation tools to tiny dots that challenge teachers who wear glasses (the 40+ crowd). Not fun.